Sunday, 5 June 2011

Beware The New Crawley

I'm going to allow myself the luxury of thinking about football for a bit, although it's patently obvious that what happens off the pitch is of infinitely more importance.

Should the WST takeover come to fruition, it's encouraging to see that they feel the budget already agreed with Dean Saunders is realistic and can be honoured. While all bets would be off if the takeover doesn't take place, the fact is that I'm cautiously optimistic after hearing the WST's initial assessment of the situation.

So, if they do take over, what are the prospects for next season? Dean Saunders hoped that Luton would go up in the play-off final, as they have more money behind them than AFC Wimbledon (the excellent Stuart Hammonds had an interesting article in the Non League Paper the other week where he compared his predicted league table at the start of the season, based on the clubs' budgets, with where they actually finished. His prediction was uncannily accurate: Luton had the second biggest budget as I recall, we had the fifth, but AFC Wimbledon were the biggest climbers, as they had the fourteenth largest budget in the division!)

I've got to say that, although I follow Saunders' logic, I'm not too bothered that Luton are still in our league, though. Their parachute payments end this season, so their spending will surely be curbed. And anyway, were they actually better than us last season? They finished just three points clear of us and got past us in the play-offs because we froze in the first leg. I didn't see anything to particularly scare me from them last season to be honest.

In fact, until the last few days I thought that, if we were able to keep hold of most of our squad and make the odd judicious addition, we'd be serious contenders for the title. After all, the artificial impact of Crawley's spending is no longer a factor. However, I fear we might be up against another side which is willing to spend beyond it's means to go up in Fleetwood. The Lancashire club's got even less history and support than Crawley, as last season was their first in the Conference and they struggled to attract decent crowds despite reaching the play-offs. However, when you've got money sluicing in from other areas that doesn't matter, at least in the short term.

They were bankrolled in the Conference North, when they gazumped us for Anthony Barry, they spent lavishly on a side last season which was capable of playing very attractive football, and already this summer they've splashed out for a big name striker in Crawley's Richard Brodie, not to mention outbidding us for Andy Mangan.

Also, in contrast to Luton they did impress me last season. They out-played us at The Racecourse and although their winner in the return match was offside, they looked dangerously swift on the attack and we never looked like scoring past them. If they address the rather cumbersome nature of their central defence, which was torn apart in the play-offs by AFC Wimbledon, they'll be the team to beat next Summer.

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